Chicken Pilau

There meals that are so typically Kenyan. Meals that you will rarely miss at most gathering. You know those meals that ALL Kenyans think they can cook just by virtue of them being Kenyan. Sort of like the way you imagine all Italians should know how to make great pasta meals or pizza or that a Spaniard should have their paella skills locked down. Well pilau is one of those meals for Kenyans. Its always in every wedding or party but only thing is they do not really make pilau but some version of it where they put meat and some pilau masala and call it pilau, HAA!! What a shame.

Then there my relatives from central who made the term pilau Njeri famous. What we do is add everything we have then some pilau masala and call it Pilau. BIGGER HAAA!! I was never really in this league but in the league of those who just used pilau masala and came out with something sort of, kinda like pilau. That was until a few years ago when my gal Angie’s mum tried to teach me how to make it right. I never really got the measurements right but she did make a mean Pilau and she told me that she would sometimes add pilau masala for the color. Well the knowledge she passed on to me kinda faded away and I forgot all about cooking a good pilau till sometime last year when I discovered Fauzia and begun to try again.

I promise you this is the simplest pilau recipe you will ever come across. And it’s really tasty too each time I make it I have to stop myself from eating the whole sufuria.



Chicken Pilau

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4-6


  1. 1 chicken cut up into pieces
  2. 1 teaspoon ginger
  3. 1 tablespoon garlic
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
  6. 500 grams of rice
  7. 3 onions, chopped
  8. 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 pieces each
  9. ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. ½ teaspoon cumin/coriander powder
  11. ½ teaspoon freshly ground roasted cumin powder
  12. 3 tablespoon butter
  13. 5 tablespoon oil
  14. 1 tablespoon garlic paste (extra)
  15. a bunch of coriander,chopped
  16. Spices
  17. 1 level tablespoon whole cumin
  18. ½ teaspoon whole pepper
  19. 2 sticks cinnamon
  20. 2 cloves
  21. 2 cardamom


Soak the rice in 4 cups of water for at least 30 minutes

Put the chicken with 1 tablespoon of garlic,1 teaspoon ginger, black pepper and salt. Add the water. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes ONLY. The chicken will cook later

Put a big pot on heat. Once it is hot add the oil and butter. Once butter is melted add the spices in the spices coloumn. Stir and once they begin to splutter add onions and cook till they are translucent then add in the potatoes, turmeric and cumin/coriander powder. Stir and fru for a few minutes then add in the remaining garlic and the chopped coriander.

Add in the boiled chicken stir well then add the stock ( the ratio of stock:rice is 1.25:1, 1 and ¼ cups of stock for every cup of rice) and some salt. Let it simmer then taste for salt. It should be “too” salty for your liking so that it’s just right when the rice is cooked.

Drain rice and add to the pot, stir well then sprinkle with some coriander on top. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes then reduce the heat to medium and cover with a lid. Once the water has reduced reduce the heat to very low. Let this cook for about ten minutes then switch off the heat.

Fluff rice with a fork and leave the lid on for about 3 minutes.


Written by David Mwakodi
  • As a Kenyan, I had an immediate YUM response to this pilau recipe! Thanks

    • Wangeci Wandere

      Thanx Adhis, Hope you will try it out soon

  • Mighty good job making all these lovely recipes out there in the desert. Kudos to you. Will be trying that “all time favourite chicken pilau” and I love the story of how people in shags make the mchanganyiko maalum and call it pilau. LOL!

    • Wangeci Wandere

      heheh especially my shagz its like yaani that is their talent. thanx for the complement 🙂

  • Alma

    do you prefer using this method or using the ready to use pilau masala?

    • Wangeci Wandere

      This method, find that it comes out “realer” 🙂